Lori Phanachone reinstated

April 8, 2009

For more information:
Khin Mai Aung
Staff Attorney
212.966.5932 ext. 219
Click here to email

Honors student previously disciplined for protesting English Language Learner testing

New York, NY — In a welcome but abrupt about face, Storm Lake School District has reclassified Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) client Lori Phanachone as English proficient and restored her National Honor Society membership. After stripping the 3.98 GPA student’s National Honor Society membership for refusing an English Language Learner (ELL) test, the school district has met AALDEF’s demand to restore her membership. The district has also met AALDEF’s demand to reclassify Ms. Phanachone as English proficient.

Khin Mai Aung, Ms. Phanachone’s attorney at AALDEF, said: “Storm Lake is finally moving in the right direction by reclassifying Lori as English proficient, and restoring her hard earned National Honors Society membership. We are thrilled about this development, but continue to seek assurances from Storm Lake on other pending matters.”

Ms. Phanachone was mislabeled an ELL for naming Lao as her home language, without an English proficiency assessment, when she moved to Storm Lake two years ago. Ms. Phanachone has since been subjected to yearly ELL testing while excelling in advanced courses taught in English. This year, she boycotted a yearly ELL test in protest, resulting in a 3-day suspension, exclusion from extracurriculars and loss of her National Honor Society membership.

Lori Phanachone said: “We still need a lot of answers, but I feel really good that my academic honors have been restored, and I no longer have to worry about being classified as an ELL.”

Among other things, the following demands by AALDEF are still pending with Storm Lake School District:

  • Remove all references to Lori Phanachone’s suspension and other disciplinary action from her school records;
  • Assure in writing that it will not impose further disciplinary action on her;
  • Clarify Storm Lake’s procedures for classifying students as ELL upon enrollment; and
  • Explain how and why Lori Phanachone was initially classified as an ELL under Storm Lake’s classification procedures.

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The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), founded in 1974, is a national organization that protects and promotes the civil rights of Asian Americans. By combining litigation, advocacy, education, and organizing, AALDEF works with Asian American communities across the country to secure human rights for all.


h2o girl said…
Woohoo! That is great news. The whole situation was completely absurd. I'm so sorry Lori had to go through all that.
Heidi Biglin said…
This story is so over the top. Please!

Margie, I have been reading your posts about adoption and loss. We are regrouping after a failed adoption (with a corrupt agency) and are hoping to adopt a child from Korea. But I often grapple with this decision...is it selfish to take a child and transplant them to a culture and race so different from their own because I want so badly to be a parent? We are absolutely not going into this blindly, but because it feels like the right choice for us emotionally, does it mean it is the right choice for a child? We would be grateful for any thoughts or words of wisdom you might care to share with us. ( heidibig@gmail.com)

Thanks for your insight.

Heidi Biglin
Margie said…
Heidi, hi, just getting your message - I'll email. It may be within a couple of days, hopefully that's OK - crazy busy at work.

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